Starting in 2010, the progressive moment has poured more and more resources into understanding and publishing the facts about heretofore-obscure conservative groups. The religious right? That's so 2007. The mission now is exposing the connections of Koch Industries, the origins of libertarian legislation in various unglamorous think tanks, and the corporate sponsors who make it possible. Why now? There are plenty of reasons, and plenty of triggers that no one expected (like Ian Murphy's prank "David Koch" call in Wisconsin). The result: More and more info, packaged for maximum dramatic purpose, about how the think tanks work.
The villain of the last few months is the American Legislative Exchange Council. The Center for Media and Democracy, a lefty think tank in Wisconsin, started publishing ALEC's dummy legislation -- usually available to legislators for free, or non-legislator members for quite a lot of money -- on a catch-all Wiki site. Until last year, it was pretty easy for any media to get access to ALEC conferences to find out what the cutting edge of libertarian thinking was, or scan the program and see who was funding it. ThinkProgress tried to get into this month's conference. No dice.
The TP bloggers publish the conference's lists of sponsors anyway, and really, I don't see the point of ALEC panicking at the sight of flipcams. The big revelation here is that BP is one of the $100,000 donors behind this conference -- in New Orleans! Ironic, but unsurprising. Check out the GOP's list of "jobs bills" being held up by Democrats. Most of the bills that promise immediate job growth are energy deregulation plans, offshore leasing plans, etc. ALEC's funders, priorities and ideas, are totally predictable. The right's succeeded in what they thought the left was doing -- filling brain trusts that schlep legislation to capitols as soon as their candidates win. All that ALEC does by pushing ThinkProgress around is add a veil of secrecy to something we deserve to know.